autoimmune research, microbiome, mind-body

Can Science Explain Gut Feelings?

Do you recognize the feeling of “butterflies?” We feel “butterflies” because the gut’s enteric nervous system, our “second brain,” houses 95% of the body’s serotonin. This same system also partially determines our mental state and plays a key role in contracting certain diseases.

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In fact, our brain and gut appear to be connected in significant ways. According to Nature’s article, this gut-brain axis is explained by a bidirectional communication system, and can be seen in psychiatric disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.

Furthermore, new studies are showing that microbial flora imbalances in our gut can influence stress-related behaviors. As a result, scientists are now looking to use these connections to create novel approaches for prevention and treatment of anxiety and depression!

New discoveries regarding how the gut can affect mood have been made! In a controlled experiment, higher expressions of GABA receptors were associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression! This is an intriguing discovery because it begins to explain the neural mechanisms behind the gut brain connection, such as the discovery around the vagus or pneumogastric nerve. The nerve was found to be the pathway responsible for the parasympathetic control of the digestive tract. This means the nerve may link the body’s neurochemical and behavioral effects.

Neuroscientists have also taken notice of the important connection between intestinal bacteria and mental health, and are propelling the topic forward. It was discussed about at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting (Gut Microbes and the Brain: Paradigm Shift in Neuroscience), and even the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has administered $1 million on a new research program aimed at the gut-brain axis! 

How can we help the therapy community learn how to harness this new information?  Does your therapist know about the brain-gut axis?

P.S.
Ever wonder why we crave certain flavors? Nestle’s food scientist, Heribert Watzke, gives an intriguing TED talk, “The Brain in Your Gut”, investigating the evolutionary importance behind different tastes. He analyzes each taste bud and explains our flavor cravings. Learn why sweet, salty, bitter, and sour foods have become so prominent in our diet and what they benefits they hold for our bodie

Written with Tiffany Simms

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